It is a fact that having schools in good conditions is decisive for students to achieve the expected academic results
For those who love to read and study, any place can be good to read and learn. They might argue that the space you are in does not matter, that knowledge is immaterial, that the physical context is secondary, and that what is important is to concentrate in what you are reading.
But if we transfer this reasoning to the reality of educational systems, the empiric evidence is flagrant: having rooms and learning spaces in good conditions is decisive for students to achieve the expected academic results. In other words, the conditions of the schools directly impacts the performance of the students.
The fact is that a good school infrastructure, with renewed spaces, makes it possible for children and youths that live in remote areas to study and, in addition, tends to improve the attendance and interest of students and teachers in learning. For this same reason, investments in school infrastructure have an essential role in solving access problems of students to the school system and to improve their performance.
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What are the conditions for a quality school infrastructure?
According to the experts, it must at least comply with the following parameters:
Comfort for students, teachers, and administrators: spaces for teachers and students, with an adequate temperature, ventilation, and lighting, with water, electricity, and Internet services, as well as sanitary services and the respective drainage of sewage waters.
Spaces for the development of rehearsals and practices such as libraries, and natural sciences, information technology, physics and chemistry labs.
Spaces for the development of talents and entertainment, sports, and culture.
Daniel Rivera, Social Development Project Director at CAF, Development Bank of Latin America, states, "The improvement of the physical conditions of schools is as closely related to learning as other educational inputs including home environment, motivation, good teachers, libraries, technologies, or student services".
The impact of infrastructure on educational quality
A review of the most recent literature indicates that investments to improve school infrastructure has effects on the educational quality at least in the following three dimensions:
Attendance and completion of academic cycles. According to UNESCO, the school drop-out rate in Latin America is 17 percent, and greater in rural areas. Several studies have found that the physical conditions of school buildings positively affects school completion and cycle completion rates, and increases registration. For example, in Peru the World Bank found that investments in school facilities had a very significant positive effect on students' attendance rates.
Teacher motivation. Evidence in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and Uganda indicates that teachers in schools with good infrastructure have, on average, 10 percent less absenteeism than teachers in schools with deficient infrastructure. In fact, the study found that infrastructure had a greater effect reducing absenteeism than teacher salaries or the effect of the administrative tolerance for absences.
Learning results. Studies carried out in the United States, such as the one conducted by 21st Century School Fund in 2010, found positive results which are statistically significant between school infrastructure and standardized tests to measure learning processes in many parts of the country. With lower student socio-economic levels, the results were higher.
Hanushek (1995) found that the results of 34 studies with production functions in developing countries that analyzed the relationship between school facilities and learning mostly found a positive effect. Vélez, Schiefelbein, and Valenzuela (1993)also indicate positive results between infrastructure quality and learning, based on a review of close to 70 models of functions of production carried out during 20 years in Latin America.
Empiric evidence indicates that there is a direct relationship between school infrastructure and educational performance, and that investments in educational infrastructure contribute to improve the quality of education and the economic performance of countries.
Rivera explains "To optimize investments in education it is essential for authorities to observe the significant role of infrastructure interacting with other essential educational inputs to be able to undertake comprehensive proposals that together, improve the quality of education, thus promoting greater equality of opportunities and contribute to reduce inequalities and advance toward a real productive transformation in the region"